On Loyalty

Of all the qualities a person may possess, be they inherently positive or negative, a useful place may be made for all them except loyalty. Loyalty is a willful act made at the behest of a superior, an act whose only guaranty is continued subservience. Loyalty imposes the impression of honor on outwardly unyielding faith in a poor idea or person.

A banker in his 30s gets a job with a maverick investor. Many quiet meetings and transactions surround the maverick’s method for picking investments. The banker is privy to many of these secrets and is well rewarded for his energetic and discreet compliance. He buys a stately house just out of the city. People say taxi and he thinks of a helicopter. A journalist discovers the method is grossly illegal. The banker stays on through the investigations; given his rewards he feels this is the just choice. His job has given him his possessions and blessed his resume; the maverick’s reputation must be preserved within a larger narrative. 

Every weekend a mother and father visit their daughter at a juvenile detention center. The bus takes three hours. The wait at the detention center is twice as long. They spin great webs of contexts that make sense of her crime, but they do not ultimately stand by or try to justify the crime itself. Sometimes they are not let into the center. Sometimes they are let in and she is moody and unmanageable. They go to see their daughter every weekend. They love her.

Peter Gotti, older brother of John Gotti, was the last head from a long generation of the Gambino crime family. He did not rule long, indicted with several other made men, all elderly, hunched over and harassed by their bodies. At trial there were as many turncoats as there were defendants, old men as well, trading their testimony and the mafia’s lifetime oath of loyalty, for however many less years in the cells for one cooperators are kept in for their own safety. Peter Gotti was found guilty, his appeal has been filed.

Zimbabwe. Burma. Any government from the 60s through the 80s whose leader had big dark glasses welded to his temples. All governments founded on loyalty, all corrupt and doomed. See the current American administration the comparison of which is no great stretch. One is to the others as stable, very rich America is to decidedly unstable, much poorer countries. Permanent war, the propagation of one party and the obfuscation of the press (worse states castrate the press, America’s was emasculated into impotence, left making excuses, “I swear this never happened before.”) are wholly unintelligent from the point of view of good government, and all are acts typical of governments crammed with loyalists. 

Minority groups are often what would be called loyal amongst each other. But this is the affection that comes from shared experience, spread out concentrically, because the minority experience is generally an unstable and/or subservient one. They care for each other because others don’t.

Two brother’s sit in a bar, one drunk. They love each other very much, talk to each other every day. The drunk brother gets in a verbal altercation and a fight is inevitable. The sober brother steps in, punching the man his brother faces, hurting him. A regrettable act of love.

An old man dies. One granddaughter loved the man so much she charges money she will not be able to pay back anytime soon, flying from another country to attend the funeral. Another granddaughter, who loved him equally and lives in the same town as the funeral, cannot leave her house she is so devastated. Neither qualifies as loyal or not, both are acts born from love.

A soldier lies wounded in an Army hospital, alive in a manner of speaking, burned his body over and sort of breathing. In 2003 his brigade marched from the Kuwaiti border to Baghdad where for a week they drove up and down a highway celebrating, shooting wildly. The soldier went home and was brought back by the Army for another year, then another year and a last year the beginning of which a bomb exploded under him. Many explosions could have done the same, but he always missed their acquaintance through luck and the help of other soldiers. His troop contains many personalities, some of whom he likes, others less so. No reward, except the company of these personalities, exists equivalent to what the soldier has seen and had to do. He regrets that he is not with his troop now. His is the saddest, sorriest love of all.